There's plenty of thrills and chills on the DVD shelf this week. Heading the list is the latest outing from the one-man wrecking crew that is Jason Statham, who stars in 'The Mechanic' as an elite assassin who has to take on his former bad guy boss to avenge the death of his mentor. Then there's 'The Rite,' which stars Anthony Hopkins and Colin O'Donoghue in a moderately scary tale of a young priest who travels to the Vatican to become a modern-day exorcist, but he gets more than he bargained for when he teams up with a village priest to drive the devil out of a pregnant woman. This one is based on real-life characters and events. Read on.
What It's About: This remake of the Charles Bronson-starring 1972 film of the same name has tough-guy Jason Statham as the eponymous hit man, an elite assassin who is the best in the business. He always works alone, making sure his jobs are clean, fast and precise -- and made to look like accidents. When his mentor (Donald Sutherland) is murdered, he teams up with the older man's son (Ben Foster), a neer-do-well loose cannon, to mentor him and go after the bad guys -- with disastrous results. There's plenty of killings, bloodshed, explosions, car accidents and stunts to warm the hearts of die-hard action fans.
It's Kinda Like: 'The Punisher' meets James Bond
What We Say: This lean, mean killing-machine of a movie starts out with a bang, an assassination of a South American drug lord that sets the tone for the rest of the film. In just the first 10 minutes, the mechanic is depicted as a hunk, a great lover, a connoisseur of high-end audio equipment (expensive manual turntable and tubed electronics), and a handyman in the garage -- the guy is rebuilding a vintage red Jaguar XKE sports car in his spare time. Though he's a stone killer, you can't help but love him. Foster, on the other hand, is not very likable, and that's fine, since he's the wannabe hit man without the finesse of his mentor. And then there's the sleazy, corporate bad guys you just love to hate. Though it's predictable at times, there's enough in this straight-ahead thriller to keep you waiting for more.
• Extras: Deleted scenes and a behind-the-scenes featurette.
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What It's About: Colin O'Donoghue stars as Michael Kovak, a young mortician turned seminary student who finds that his skepticism about God is getting in the way of implementing his vows. To pay off his debt for his priestly studies, he reluctantly agrees to attend exorcism school at the Vatican (apparently there has been an increase in exorcisms around the world and the Church needs priests schooled in the ancient art of driving out the devil). While in Rome he's assigned to work with an older, unorthodox priest, Father Lucas (Anthony Hopkins), who introduces him to the darker side of the faith and teaches him the fine art of confronting satan.
It's Kinda Like: 'The Exorcist' meets 'Going My Way'
What We Say: This low-keyed supernatural thriller relies more on unseen horror (weird voices, violently shaking doors, writhing bodies) than on outrageous special effects (there's no pea-soap vomit or spinning heads here, as Father Lucas says about midway through the movie), although there is a smattering of blood and gore -- but just enough to advance the story line. Mostly it's the incredible Anthony Hopkins stealing the screen as a priest who takes exorcisms as part of his daily chore to keep the faith for the faithful. It's slow-moving at times, low-key, and not all that scary (though it does have its moments) -- but, hey, God works in mysterious ways.
• Extras: Alternate ending; additional scenes; "The Rite: Soldier of God," a featurette on Father Gary Thomas, the Vatican-ordained exorcist whose life story inspired the film (includes footage shot inside the Exorcism Academy).
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Other New May 17 DVD Releases:
'Daydream Nation': A city girl moves to a small town and becomes entangled in a love triangle between her high school teacher and a stoner classmate. Stars Kat Dennings, Reece Thompson, Josh Lucas, Andie MacDowell.
'The Other Woman': Natalie Portman gives a mature performance in this sensitive and compelling modern drama about a law-school graduate who falls in love with her married boss; after he divorces his bitter wife, they marry, but happiness turns to grief when their newborn baby dies and she has to deal with her 8-year-old stepson and a jealous ex.
'The Roommate': A college student finds that her new roommate has an obsession with her, which quickly turns violent. Variation on 'Single White Female.' Stars Leighton Meester, Minka Kelly, Cam Gigandet, Aly Michalka.
'Vanishing on 7th Street': When a massive power outage plunges the city of Detroit into total darkness, a disparate group of individuals find that they're the only remaining people in the city and, soon enough, they realize that an encroaching darkness is out to get them as well. Stars Hayden Christensen, John Leguizamo, Thandie Newton.
May 17 Blu-ray Debuts:
'Beverly Hills Cop' (1984) The film that cemented Eddie Murphy's place as an A-list star gets the Blu-ray treatment with commentary by director Martin Brest; three featurettes: "Beverly Hills Cop -- The Phenomenon Begins," "A Glimpse Inside the Casting Process" and "The Music of Beverly Hills Cop"; as well as an interactive "Location Map."
'Diabolique' (1954) This intense thriller from Henri-Georges Clouzot ('The Wages of Fear') is the story of two women -- one the fragile wife of a sadistic school headmaster, the other his willful mistress -- who team up to hatch a daring revenge plot to put him in his place. Shocking for its time, the film still holds up with its narrative twists and turns and unforgettably scary images. Features outstanding performances by Simone Signoret, Vera Clouzot and Paul Meurisse. From The Criterion Collection.
'Pale Flower' (1964)The Japanese New Wave thrived in the 1960s, with such directors as Seijun Suzuki, Kinji Fukasaku and Masahiro Shinoda making movies that explored the moral code, violence and honor of the Yakuza, generally pitting a lone gangster against the mob mentality. Among the best is Shinoda's 'Pale Flower,' a cool and seductive film about a Yakuza, fresh out of prison, who becomes entangled with a beautiful yet enigmatic gambling addict; what at first seems a redemptive relationship ends up leading him further down the criminal path. From The Criterion Collection.
Check out other new May 17 DVD releases at OnVideo.